A series of car bombs targeted a senior city official and civilians today in northern Iraq, killing at least four people, officials said, the latest in a spate of attacks the U.S. military said was a show of force by an enemy on the run.
A roadside bomb also killed a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter in northwestern Baghdad, the American military said. At least 4,141 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Brig. Gen. David Perkins, a U.S. spokesman, said the attacks were a show of force by insurgents who "are feeling more and more pressure in their areas" because of military operations and want to show "they are still relevant."
The attacks also have failed to re-ignite retaliatory sectarian violence that had been common in recent years, he said, noting that no attacks were recorded in Baghdad the day after a triple suicide bombing that killed nearly 60 Shiite pilgrims last month.
"Had this been a year ago you would have seen retribution attacks," he said at a news conference. "Instead of spiraling down into violence ... the Iraqi people have rejected the violence."
Amid the security gains, the United Nations outlined a new aid strategy to promote job creation and rebuilding efforts by helping the Iraqi government &
flush with oil revenue &
improve its spending capabilities.
David Shearer, the deputy U.N. envoy for Iraq, said the agreement signed today with the Iraqi government signaled "a real moment of opportunity in Iraq" as the world body expands its presence and gains access to more areas due to the security improvements.
The United Nations largely pulled out of Iraq after the deadly 2003 bombing of its headquarters in Baghdad and other attacks. But in recent months, it has been raising its profile here.
Today's violence began when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden pickup into a convoy carrying the mayor of Multaqa, a mainly Sunni town west of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad.
Abdul-Karim Ali Nsaif was on his way to work when the blast occurred, wounding him and three of his guards, said Kirkuk police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir.
Multaqa was known as the first place in the volatile area to form an awakening council, a U.S.-allied Sunni group that turned against al-Qaida in Iraq, residents said.
A parked car loaded with explosives also struck a local market in the Qayara area south of the northern city of Mosul, killing at least two people and wounding five, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
Another suicide car bomber struck an Iraqi checkpoint near a medical college in western Mosul, killing two people, including an Iraqi soldier and a civilian, and wounding 16 others, a police official said.
Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, is the center of U.S.-Iraqi military operations aimed at clearing the area of insurgents.
Iraqi forces are also struggling to pacify Diyala province, which stretches northeast from Baghdad to the Iranian border.
Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said 663 wanted men had been arrested in Diyala.
Forty-two senior leaders at the al-Qaida umbrella group the Islamic State of Iraq and 50 others were arrested as they were launching attacks, he said, adding the number included 48 suspects in U.S. custody.
Eleven other suspected insurgents had surrendered and taken the government up on its amnesty offer, al-Askari said.
Diyala has proven among the most difficult of Iraq's 18 provinces to pacify, in part because of its complex mixture of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Al-Maliki launched the military operation in Diyala on July 29, hoping to replicate successes against Shiite and Sunni militants in Baghdad and other major cities. But he announced a weeklong suspension on Monday to give militants a chance to surrender and accept the amnesty offer.
"The Diyala military operations field is the hardest one in Iraq because of its geographical nature as it has palm groves, irrigation canals, small rivers and towns and suburbs," al-Askari said at a joint news conference with Perkins. "It is considered the last stronghold for the militants."
Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report.
Bombs target Iraqi official